WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- In 2019, scientists launched several fungal and bacterial organisms to the stratosphere, the second major layer of earth that closely resembles Mars.
- Now, the scientists have published in a paper that the spores have survived the trip.
- One of them said that the mission “is a really important way to help us explore all the implications of space travel on microbial life and how we can drive this knowledge towards amazing space discoveries.”
What could this extraterrestrial exploration bring to Mars and other planets under study?
In 2019, scientists from NASA and the German Aerospace Center sent off several fungal and bacterial organisms to the stratosphere, as part of the Microbes in Atmosphere for Radiation, Survival, and Biological Outcomes (MARSBOx) experiment. Fast forward to now, the scientists shared the findings in a paper, concluding that the spores of black mold survived the trip.
The stratosphere is the second major layer of the earth’s atmosphere located above the ozone layer. It closely resembles the red planet, a good place to experiment if earth samples will survive on Mars.
To be precise, the microorganism could only temporarily exist on the surface of Mars, but they could be revived once returned back to earth, the researchers said.
The fungal spores of Aspergillus niger and Salinisphaera shabanensis, Staphylococcus capitis subsp. capitis and Buttiauxella sp. MASE-IM-9 bacterial cells were placed inside the MARSBOx aluminum container. The container had two sample layers inside. The bottom one was shielded from radiation so NASA can separate the effects of radiation from the effects of other environmental conditions. The container then was carried to the stratosphere by a NASA balloon.
The samples were subject to Martian-like conditions in the stratosphere, and exposed to UV radiation over a thousand times more than the levels that cause sunburn.
Katharina Siems, a team member from the German Aerospace Center, further explained: “With crewed long-term missions to Mars, we need to know how human-associated microorganisms would survive on the Red Planet, as some may pose a health risk to astronauts.”
She continued, “In addition, some microbes could be invaluable for space exploration. They could help us produce food and material supplies independently from Earth, which will be crucial when far away from home.”
Last year, NASA aimed to make a stronger commitment to prevent the moon and Mars from human contamination.
The agency wanted to ensure that organisms and other contaminants from earth won’t be unintentionally taken to other worlds. Once this happens, the search for extraterrestrial life could be compromised.
Siems added that experiments like the MARSBOx mission “is a really important way to help us explore all the implications of space travel on microbial life and how we can drive this knowledge towards amazing space discoveries.”
Source: Yahoo News